Why 'Modern Family' Keeps Winning Emmys Over Better Shows

Modern family emmys

ABC’s “Modern Family” won its fifth-consecutive Emmy for Best Comedy Series on Monday night, joining “Frasier” (1994-1998) as the only comedy to win so many in a row.
But does the show really deserve its status as a five-time Best Comedy Series champ?

“Modern Family” wasn’t even on the radar for most critics guessing Emmy winners, as FX’s “Louie” and controversial Netflix comedy entry “Orange is the New Black” (it’s a drama, right?) were expected to take top honours.

But after Netflix made history last year by being the first non-TV network to win an award (three awards, to be exact), perhaps Emmy voters got scared that streaming sites would take their viewers and their accolades. Even Seth Meyers poked fun at Netflix’s dominance in his opening monologue of the night.

Perhaps voters also preferred to stick with a network selection over cable competition, which also included HBO’s “Silicon Valley” and “Veep.”

Emmy voters are members of The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, who have applied and been approved by a “peer group.” Those accepted include actors, casting directors, producers, directors, and tons of behind-the-scenes people who have been in the ‘biz for a very long time and likely want to see network television prevail.

Emmy voters quickly recognised “Modern Family” as a safe choice.

When the show first premiered in 2009, it quickly had mass appeal. Combining three family units including a gay couple with an adopted daughter, an older man with a hot Colombian wife, and a traditional suburban family — it was like “8 Simple Rules” meets “Three’s Company” mixed with some “George Lopez.”

Modern family promo poster season one

After two seasons, the show had a combination of 33 Emmy nods and 11 wins.
By 2012, it was so popular that NBC tried — and failed — to duplicate its success with look-alike show “The New Normal.”

But already the “Modern” characters were starting to feel stale to some critics.

“As ‘Modern Family’ has gotten older, its characters, and their dynamics, have settled into grooves, some more discordant than others,” Salon’s Willa Paskin wrote in 2012.

Meanwhile, where storylines in older episodes would tie together brilliantly, some new episodes feature disappointingly unconnected plot lines. They also feel increasingly formulaic.

That’s why the latest Emmy win generated tweets like this (from Buzzfeed’s entertainment editor and a filmmaker):

The viewership for the series, while still high, isn’t as large as it once was. The ratings for “Modern Family” by its season average nearly make a bell curve.

Modern family ratings by season average

A look at fan reception of every episode to date shows a gradual decline in viewer interest. The series hits a low note near the end of season 4.

Via Graph TV:

Modern family audience reception
Modern family reviews

Despite the recent slump, the series’ most positively reviewed episode actually came this past season when the family took a trip to Las Vegas. Taking the family out of their normal setting invigorated the episode, and all the storylines come together for a more satisfying end that was reminiscent of the show’s earlier seasons.

That’s probably why the episode won an Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series. “Las Vegas” and the positive reception of one other stand-out episode from season 5 titled “Message Received” may have helped Emmy voters give it a win.

This is not the only time the Emmy’s has awarded a show that’s past its prime.

Just look at how long “Two and a Half Men” kept winning Emmys after its prime. While fan ratings and TV ratings plunged after Charlie Sheen left in season 9, that didn’t stop the show from receiving 14 more Emmys nominations, with co-star Jon Cryer receiving four more nominations and securing two wins.

More often than not, when it comes to comedies, the Emmys play it safe giving the awards to a network TV show over cable. Since the Emmys’ inception there has only been one time a cable channel has won the Outstanding Comedy series. That honour is held by HBO, as “Sex and the City” won Best Comedy in 2001.

Even if the Emmys are playing favourites with “Modern Family,” the ABC show is not as popular as it once was with the Awards’ show. The amount of Emmy nominations the series has received and won over the years has slowly been on the decline.

“Modern Family” Emmy Nods/Wins

Year Emmy Nominations Wins
2010 16 6
2011 17 5
2012 14 5
2013 12 2
2014 10 3

With the show starting its sixth season, it may be time to pass the torch on to another show.

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